Where else is the axe due to fall?

The Oban Times - - News - STAFF RE­PORTER ed­i­tor@oban­times.co.uk

IT’S CRUNCH time for Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil as a meet­ing of the full coun­cil votes whether to re­move the con­tro­ver­sial 45 per cent cut planned for ad­di­tional sup­port needs fund­ing for chil­dren.

The very idea sparked a storm of protest; Oban’s Cor­ran Halls saw a turnout of more than 300 to a meet­ing called by the town’s com­mu­nity coun­cil with the AB-Pacc (Ar­gyll and Bute Par­ents Against Coun­cil Cuts), last Wed­nes­day.

The meet­ing was heated at times and coun­cil­lors were left in no doubt about pub­lic feel­ing.

To­day (Thurs­day) the full coun­cil gets to vote on the rec­om­men­da­tion to ‘con­sider whether the op­tion of re­duc­ing ad­di­tional sup­port needs (ASN) as­sis­tant sup­port by 45 per cent should be re­moved from the cur­rent ser­vice choices con­sul­ta­tion pro­gramme’.

At the start of this school year there were 1,931 pupils who needed ad­di­tional sup­port and of th­ese ap­prox­i­mately 570 chil­dren needed ASN as­sis­tant sup­port.

SNP coun­cil­lors an­nounced ahead of to­day’s coun­cil meet­ing that they would be vot­ing to get rid of the cut, crit­i­cis­ing ‘ the un­nec­es­sary angst’ it has caused for par­ents, chil­dren and the peo­ple fac­ing re­dun­dancy.

‘I hope that the coun­cil will to­gether agree to put this emo­tive and dis­tress­ing is­sue be­hind us,’ said Sandy Tay­lor leader of the SNP coun­cil group.

Last Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing heard coun­cil area leader Roddy McCuish heck­led and called a ‘liar’ and an op­po­si­tion coun­cil­lor liken­ing the project board – the com­mit­tee set up to oversee the bud­get-making process – to ‘North Korea’.

This worry at the lack of in­for­ma­tion and fear of where other cuts will fall was echoed when Oban Com­mu­nity Coun­cil held a sec­ond, less-well at­tended pub­lic meet­ing on Fri­day at Glen­cruitt­ten Church Hall.

This was for the pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion ‘Plan­ning our Fu­ture’, com­plete with a sur­vey ask­ing for pub­lic opin­ion on how to make sav­ings be­tween now and 2018.

The doc­u­ment left many peo­ple baf­fled; they felt it was too com­plex.

Alan Reid, Scot­tish Lib­eral Demo­crat can­di­date for Ar­gyll and Bute in the May 2016 elec­tions, who was at the meet­ing on Fri­day, said: ‘The clear feel­ing of the meet­ing was that the coun­cil hadn’t given enough de­tails of what the op­tions would mean and the com­mu­nity coun­cil should feed that back to the coun­cil.’

One mem­ber of the pub­lic, Andy MacArthur, said ask­ing peo­ple to fill in the con­sul­ta­tion doc­u­ment was ‘like sit­ting in a lifeboat de­cid­ing who to eat first while the good ship Kil­mory [coun­cil head­quar­ters] sails on’.

He added: ‘There is ab­so­lutely no ac­count­abil­ity or trans­parency in Ar­gyll and Bute; 52 per cent of the project board are un-elected.’

Ahead of to­day’s meet­ing, High­lands and Is­lands MSP David Ste­wart sent his sup­port for Ar­gyll and Bute Par­ents Against Coun­cil Cuts.

He said: ‘The ser­vice cuts are un­ac­cept­able. As is so of­ten the case, those in most need have to bear the brunt of the cuts.

‘I have sym­pa­thy for the sit­u­a­tion Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil is in. It is time its MSPs faced up to the re­al­ity that th­ese cuts are a direct re­sult of the coun­cil tax freeze that the SNP gov­ern­ment im­posed across Scot­land.

‘The sit­u­a­tion is made worse due the re­mote­ness of some parts of Ar­gyll and the large num­ber of is­lands that do not re­ceive the same sup­port of­fered to other is­land com­mu­ni­ties. I will con­tinue to fight for a fair deal for Ar­gyll.’

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